Dialog Punctuation and Capitalization

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Paper Princess

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Very helpful, thanks!
It is just what I needed because of my confusion..
 

lwallace

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Need More

OK this is stupid and I should kow this but...
When you start a sentance with a quote spoken by someone other than the speaker how do you hadel that.

here is what I am talking about

A conversation is taking place between two people, one is relating a story with direct quotes
"so, shall it be done' Remmy replied, but that was not the end of the matter, not by a long shot."
Is this corect??

It's hard to see what you're trying to do here. You may have to offer more before we can try to figure out the punctuation, in particular, the quotation marks.
 

Maryn

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lwallace, be aware you're answering a post made nearly six months ago. It's likely the person who asked it won't see your input.

Maryn
 

WackAMole

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Thanks for this thread! Very simple and straightforward.

I have such comma issues-I comma even when I know im not supposed to comma. It's like my comma finger has turrets.

(Hmm, I should use that as my sig line LOL)
 

LynnKHollander

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"But," his eyes flashed, "that doesn't change the way I feel about these bastards in private." ~~Now I wouldn't call this a dialogue tag ~'flashed' not being a synonym of 'said'. It's more a bit of dialogue interrupted by a bit of narrative. So is it correct? Non-standard, certainly.
 

Chase

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Added opinions of style

I’m having visual trouble with some dialog despite the well-stated rules above (or perhaps I’m too hidebound to change an idea stuck in my hard head).

To reopen the discussion, I’m familiar with MLA’s academic advice for continuing a quote to a new paragraph and AP’s similar take on quoting a single speaker to a new paragraph in newspapers.

Purdue Owl says the same as CMoS:

Writing Dialog
Write each person's spoken words, however brief, as a separate paragraph. Use commas to set off dialog tags such as "she said" or "he explained." If one person's speech goes on for more than one paragraph, use quotation marks to open the dialogue at the beginning of each paragraph. However, do not use closing quotation marks until the end of the final paragraph where that character is speaking.

My example below is an attempt to demonstrate my understanding of the advice above:

"Stay out of my mother’s business," I said. "I mean it, Jack."

"You got no call to talk so smart-mouth to your elders. You think you’re better’n everyone, boy."

"For one thing, Jack, my objection is in defense of a lady twenty years your senior. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. For another, we’re neighbors, not family.

"I’d appreciate it no end if you’d mind your own damned affairs. They sorely need it. As for the other, I’m not better than everyone. I’m just better than you."

I realize the last line may be moved up after [gander.] to eliminate the new paragraph and start quote, or I could add a paragraph of action between the two continuing quotes by one person, but for the sake of discussion, let’s say the conversation is printed as is, just because it follows all the rules already hashed out.

My style question: doesn’t the form, although correct, seem to imply a switch in speakers if the reader misses the fact there’s no end quote after [gander.]?

I have no trouble when it's one speaker, but every time I read something similar with two or more speakers, I’m pulled out of the conversation and have to re-read.

Am I alone and seriously need to check myself into punctuation rehab?
 

Maryn

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I have been tricked caught mislead failed to notice there was no close-quote and presumed a new speaker in the second paragraph of dialogue by one speaker. It makes for some odd conceptions of how the scene is playing out until you realize what happened and backtrack.

I don't want to be a writer who makes people backtrack. While the punctuation was technically correct, I consider it a service to the distracted or tired reader--and who isn't one or the other, if not both?--to get a character action or dialogue tag in that second paragraph ASAP. Ideally, I'll close the quote, start a new paragraph with a tag or action, and proceed. That way, the inattentive reader, no doubt making dinner, paying a bill online, and texting her son at college, will stay with the program effortlessly.

Maryn, fan of making it easy but not of dumbing down
 

FennelGiraffe

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I prefer to avoid having my characters give speeches, so the problem usually doesn't occur.

ETA: But if it's absolutely necessary, what Maryn said.
 
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Maryn

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Amen, sister! In real life, one speaker going on and on without motion, or reaction from those hearing him pontificate, is pretty rare. Maybe a filibuster? But even when someone delivers a lengthy speech, they move, the listeners clap or sigh or wonder if they turned the stove off, and so on. It's pretty easy to break up long speeches if you think you should.

Which I do.

Maryn, continuing her fondness for that green giraffe
 

Bufty

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To answer your question, Chase -Yes, BUT....;)

Normally only dialogue that is obviously lengthy -a speech or monologue perhaps covering the same topic or different topics at length - is split into separate paragraphs, and it does seem to me as if the dialogue you give in your example is deliberately worded to be misleading because there is no apparent reason to break that dialogue into two paragraphs.

Any writer breaking dialogue into unnecessary and/or confusing small paragraphs can expect to confuse his readers and it seems to me the confusion is caused solely by the writer's lack of technique in not knowing how to deliver dialogue in the most readable manner - not by a punctuation convention.

=Chase;7980919]I’m having visual trouble with some dialog despite the well-stated rules above (or perhaps I’m too hidebound to change an idea stuck in my hard head).

To reopen the discussion, I’m familiar with MLA’s academic advice for continuing a quote to a new paragraph and AP’s similar take on quoting a single speaker to a new paragraph in newspapers.

Purdue Owl says the same as CMoS:

Writing Dialog
Write each person's spoken words, however brief, as a separate paragraph. Use commas to set off dialog tags such as "she said" or "he explained." If one person's speech goes on for more than one paragraph, use quotation marks to open the dialogue at the beginning of each paragraph. However, do not use closing quotation marks until the end of the final paragraph where that character is speaking.

My example below is an attempt to demonstrate my understanding of the advice above:

"Stay out of my mother’s business," I said. "I mean it, Jack."

"You got no call to talk so smart-mouth to your elders. You think you’re better’n everyone, boy."

"For one thing, Jack, my objection is in defense of a lady twenty years your senior. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. For another, we’re neighbors, not family.

"I’d appreciate it no end if you’d mind your own damned affairs. They sorely need it. As for the other, I’m not better than everyone. I’m just better than you."

I realize the last line may be moved up after [gander.] to eliminate the new paragraph and start quote, or I could add a paragraph of action between the two continuing quotes by one person, but for the sake of discussion, let’s say the conversation is printed as is, just because it follows all the rules already hashed out.

My style question: doesn’t the form, although correct, seem to imply a switch in speakers if the reader misses the fact there’s no end quote after [gander.]?

I have no trouble when it's one speaker, but every time I read something similar with two or more speakers, I’m pulled out of the conversation and have to re-read.

Am I alone and seriously need to check myself into punctuation rehab?
 
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Chase

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With a little help from my friends . . .

Thank you so much, Maryn, FennelGiraffe, Bufty, and the grammar expert who wished to remain unnamed (but I hope not unthanked).

You helped persuaded a writer conflicted between a "rule" and more effective presentation of dialog. He cut filibuster and decided to leave the open quote meant to continue dialog to academic writing and newspaper interviews.

Grateful Chase
 

Maryn

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That's pretty good for a chimp with his fingers in his ears, Chase!

<---Maryn, who wishes her legs looked like that
 

Chase

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That's pretty good for a chimp with his fingers in his ears, Chase!

Such a thing to say after I let you use my torso pix on the cover of Whatever It Takes.

Besides hearing no evil, some chimps can sign ASL better than I can.
 

Maryn

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I still wish the cover artist hadn't lopped off your head. We wanna see the hat!

(I hate that cover, although the story's good. The cover art is completely unrelated to the story, and my pen name is misspelled.)

After Koko's success with ASL, I'm not a bit surprised chimps sign well. They're pretty smart. What's that old science fiction short story, or maybe a novella, about a future world in which chimps are the blue collar workers mistreated by the humans, and sue for their rights? I think the title was the name of the chimp.

No, it wasn't Chase!

Maryn, who wishes she'd catalogued everything she ever read
 

Emerald

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Oh awesome post, thank you so much. Punctuating dialogue correctly is a downfall of mine so I have a feeling I shall be referring to this guide on a regular basis. :)
 

Viciouspen

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I know other people have said it but I wanted to throw mine in.

Thanks bunches.

Not only for putting this together but really also for the format you've done it in is so greatly understandable. I love it.
Anybody who can communicate grammar issues in a way that you can look at and just go "oh hey that totally makes sense to me," deserves a salute.

Handling dialogue is one of the few things I've been reliably good at grammar wise but I've been thinking about how I needed a refresher, this was so spot on.
 

bewarethejabb

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What about a quote inside dialogue?

"She told me, 'I can't.'"
or
"She told me, 'I can't'."


What about when the punctuation ending the quote is different from the punctuation ending the dialogue? Like a question about a statement:

"Are you saying, 'This happened.'?"
or
"Are you saying, 'This happened?'"
or
"Are you saying, 'This happened'?"
or
"Are you saying, 'This happened.'"

Or a statement about a question:

"She asked, 'Are you serious?'"
or
"She asked, 'Are you serious.'"
or
"She asked, 'Are you serious?'."

Etc.

Thanks!
 

Bufty

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Etc...?

Here's simple solutions to the problems you're trying to dream up.

"She told me I couldn't." OR "She said she couldn't."

"Are you saying this really happened?"

"She asked if I was serious." OR "She asked if you were serious."

The objective should be flow and clarity, and littering dialogue with characters quoting the dialogue of other characters aids neither flow nor clarity.
 
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Mary_MO

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Dialog issues, need help.

I've been avoiding a lot of dialog in my novel and now I'm having to back track to fix it.
Would it be a problem if I typed in 5 sentences in here from my novel as an example for what I need help in?
My knowledge in grammar is mediocre at best and I don't want to sound like an idiot if I just try to explain it instead.

Which will more than likely happen either way if or when they allow me to show this for help.
 

Maryn

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Mary MO, I'm not this board's moderator, but I don't see a problem with five sentences. First, though, be sure you've read the posts here which tell you how to punctuate and capitalize dialogue and applied what's in those posts, so people don't spend time reiterating what's already been said.

Maryn, glad to help (as are many others)
 

Sagml John

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I was about to start a thread to ask this but found this sticky thread. It helps a lot! The interrupting tag is what I was looking for. I just have to ignore my MS Word complaints:
"The main reason behind this," he explained. "is the fact that he is in his manic state."

Word wants to cap the next quoted statement, then add a question mark because it starts with "Is".
 

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